Once the pizza was consumed down to the last bit of meat crumbs in one of the boxes, Cody and Gunny got on the snowmobile and headed back to Jesse's cabin. The late afternoon sun was obscured by thin gray clouds and there was a scent of snow on the air again. This had been one of the heaviest years in snow fall in the past fifty years. Even places in California that normally didn't see snow and even down into Las Vegas, had received some. It was usually melted away by midmorning in those areas but it really threw a monkey with a wrench into the works for those places.

Cody stoked the fire from the old coals left that morning as Gunny went about gathering her things up to set by the door. The two of them spent part of the evening cleaning, putting things back to right and taking inventory of the supplies that were left. They had a quiet meal of stew and once the dishes were washed and the kitchen cleaned, the two headed for the couch.

Gunny waited till Cody had stretched out some and then slid up next to him. The two of them sat there for some time, staring at the fire, hardly saying a word. But nothing was needed to be said. It just felt right and the quiet between them was a comfortable silence. Finally when she felt herself begin to doze a little, she got up off the couch and held out her right hand to him. "Come on…." Her voice was quiet as she spoke.

Cody slid off the couch and took her hand gently before following her to the bedroom. Once there, she didn't bother to light the lamp but instead lead him to the bed. Her hands began to carefully unbutton his shirt, her eyes following her hands. Cody remained still though there was a hitch in his breathing as he wondered if she was willing to go 'all the way' tonight.

Gunny took her time, slowly removing his flannel shirt. She had decided tonight that she wanted to make love to him…it might be the last night together, alone, for some time. She heard his breathing pattern change and her own heart was beating a little faster. She slid the shirt to the floor before finally looking up at his eyes. She took one of his hands and placed it on the buttons of her shirt as if giving him permission to do the same for her.

The only light in the room was that of the moonlight coming through the window as they gently went about undressing each other. When the clothes had been shed, she pushed him back towards the bed. He reached back without looking and pulled the covers back and then sat on the edge of the bed. He wouldn't touch her unless she indicated he could. It was something they had agreed to back when they first started becoming serious with one another.

She reached down and took up his hands, pulling them up a little. She guided them to her chest, cupping them gently over her breasts. This was her signal to him that she was all right with this contact for now. He knew that if she wanted him to stop, she'd take his wrists and give them a gentle squeeze. He was almost in agony with need but he knew that if he wished to help her over her fears, he had to go at the pace she set, no matter how insane with need it made him.


The moonlight was gone from the window by the time the two of them had made love. Cody had to admit that it was one of the most intense, sensual and satisfying sessions he'd ever had with a woman. It wasn't like he was out finding a girl every night but it had been a long while since he'd made love to a woman…a couple of years by his remembering.

She had only taken his wrists into her hands once and stilled his hands though she didn't remove them. She had only sat there for a moment, fighting with her own demons before looking up at him and removing her hands, letting him resume the sweet torture he'd been giving to her. Her body had been tense for much of the time but the longer she allowed him to touch her, the more relaxed she became.

They both lay together under the covers, facing each other. She had placed her hand on his heart, feeing the steady rhythm of it through his skin. She didn't speak, didn't need to. He could tell it from her touch that tonight, they had managed to chase away a few more of those demons she carried with her and had gentled the wild horse inside of her a little more. He knew she would always be the gruff, self-assured woman who was born and raised on a ranch in Wyoming and a retired Marine, but under it all, he knew there was a sensual woman, hidden behind layers of scars and responsibilities.

He fell asleep like that, her hand still touching his chest, feeling the beat of his heart. He had moved to cover her hand with his as sleep finally pulled him under.


Crane marveled at how he had been so gentle with her, careful, attentive and though she knew it was driving him wild with need, he kept himself in check until they had both reached the pinnacle of their love making together. It truly amazed her that any man could have done as much to help her get over so many hurdles and yet still be willing to stay with her even though the pace to get here had been agonizingly slow.

She knew she'd have issues that might haunt her for the rest of her life. Her only hope was that in time, she could bury them deep enough that their presence would have very little effect on her day to day life. Possibly even a life with him but she wasn't ready to get her hopes up for something that might not happen. She wasn't going to push him into anything that permanent either. There was no doubt in her mind, if he asked her to marry him, she'd say yes. But that was a decision he'd have to come to on his own. First and foremost, he was her friend and hopefully she was his. To her that was something worth keeping.

She finally fell asleep until the early dawn and instincts woke her, telling her it was time to get up and get their day started.